This year’s Philadelphia Flower Show finished its 8 day run last week, filling visitors’ heads with all kinds of ideas they wish they could implement in their own back yard gardens. The captivating theme “Springtime in Paris” encouraged exhibitors to display baskets and urns filled with roses, swathes of ferns, sculptures, gargoyles and ironwork coupled with tulips, lilies, heuchera, lavender and rhododendrons.
Though Paris has a slightly more temperate climate than Philadelphia, there are many similarities in plants that will grow in both areas. In terms of plant hardiness zone, Philadelphia, PA is generally considered to be between zones 6-7, while Paris, France is estimated around zone 8. Philadelphia experiences higher summer temperatures and greater humidity than Paris, as well as lower winter temperatures, but a host of shrubs, trees, flowers, vegetables and herbs that are abundant in Paris can also be enjoyed in our Philadelphia gardens.
The list of flowers and shrubs that survive in both cities includes tulips, azaleas, roses, ferns, heuchera, rhododendrons and gladioli. One of the easiest flowers to grow in both Paris and Philadelphia is the iris. It has the amazing ability to withstand being uprooted and kept in a dry cool place for many months and yet still perform wonderfully once re-planted. It does not need great soil to thrive; it doesn’t even need regular watering to the same degree that some other garden favorites do. Bearded and beardless varieties are available in an enormous range of colors, which is probably why the Greek word for rainbow was chosen to name this flower. Some varieties of iris bloom earlier than others; some will even bloom more than once during the year; others can resemble orchids and still more give off a pleasing fragrance.
Whatever plants you may wish to choose for your own plot of land, based upon your trip to the Flower Show, consider cost effective ways to create Parisien themed vignettes at home by picking out smaller size shrubs, flowers, vegetables or trees that cost less than more fully grown specimens. Once planted in your yard, they will grow larger over time. Gardening involves patience and resourcefulness, so be prepared to wait a little for the biggest reward.
When considering how you may implement some of the great ideas you saw last week at the Philadelphia Flower Show, think about using recycled items instead of spending hundreds of dollars on revamping your garden area. Try checking out the free stuff on Craigslist (http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/) that others in your area are discarding, but which may look fresh and new in your yard. As an example, some areas of Paris have formal gardens, edged in boxwood shrubs and accented with ironwork fencing, arbors, intricate gates, and lavish water features. Try placing an aged metal bed head board in a sunny spot and using it as a trellis for climbing roses or clematis. Find a discarded bird bath that could be given a lick of paint to bring it back to life and plant heuchera around the base. Look for garden centers going out of business that could be selling concrete sculptures or small fountains at a fraction of their full price. Trail some ivy around the base of a less than perfect sculpture and tuck it into a flower bed to serve as an interesting focal point.
Even a trip to local Goodwill stores (http://www.goodwillnj.org/Stores_and_Donations/store_locations.html) can yield some treasures that will beautify your garden without causing damage to the family budget. Pots and pans can make unique holders for flowers or herbs. Pieces of metal furniture, sturdy picture frames and old windows can be used as an interesting backdrop or stage for your plantings.
Don’t let your trip to the Flower Show become a pleasant but distant memory – put some of those creative ideas into action this spring and bring a little European flair to your garden without breaking the bank.